Legislation in Illinois – Senate Bill 2545 (SB 2545) – that would create the “Internet Dating Safety Act” requiring Internet dating websites offering services in Illinois to disclose if they conduct criminal background checks on all their members or post warnings online that they do not conduct criminal background checks has passed both the House and Senate and now heads to Governor Pat Quinn to sign. Introduced by State Senator Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago), the full text of the bill is available here: (SB 2545) “Internet Dating Safety Act”.

According to a brief synopsis on the SB 2545 status page on Illinois General Assembly website, the Internet Dating Safety Act:

  • Requires Internet dating services offering services to Illinois members to provide a safety awareness notification to all Illinois members.
  • Provides that if an Internet dating service does not conduct criminal background screenings on its members, the service shall disclose, clearly and conspicuously, to all Illinois members that the Internet dating service does not conduct criminal background screenings.
  • Provides that an Internet service provider does not violate the Act solely as a result of serving as an intermediary for the transmission of electronic messages between members of an Internet dating service.
  • Provides that the Attorney General, pursuant to the Illinois Administrative Procedure Act, shall adopt rules and regulations to effectuate the purposes of the Act.
  • Amends the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act.
  • Provides that it is an unlawful practice under the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act for an Internet dating service to fail to provide notice or falsely indicate that it has performed criminal background screenings in accordance with the Internet Dating Safety Act.

If passed, the Internet Dating Safety Act would take effect immediately.

Online dating background checks have become more commonplace as more people join internet dating websites. As reported previously in the ESR News blog, three of the nation’s leading online dating websites – eHarmony, Match.com, and Spark Networks – and the California Attorney General issued a ‘Joint Statement of Key Principles of Online Dating Site Safety’ that online dating providers should follow to help protect members from sexual predators through background checks.

The joint statement followed the 2010 sexual assault of a Los Angeles-area woman by a man she met through Match.com who had several previous sexual assault convictions prior to the attack. The company settled a lawsuit with the woman after she sought a court order requiring Match.com to background check applicants for sex offenders.

However, Internet dating websites may create a false sense of security by saying they do background checks on members if the screenings performed are not extensive enough and use only online database searches for sex offenders prone to errors and omissions, according to safe hiring expert Attorney Lester Rosen, founder and CEO of San Francisco-area based background check firm Employment Screening Resources (ESR).

“Databases can be notoriously inaccurate, so people still need to understand that they are responsible for their personal safety,” says Rosen, the author of ‘The Safe Hiring Manual,’ the first comprehensive guide for background checks. “Database searches are subject to false negatives and false positives and have issues with accuracy, timeliness, and completeness. They can also cause harm by creating a false sense of security.”

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